MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time in a month, the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to put 12 healthy bodies into uniforms.
But while they might be getting at least a little healthier roster-wise, the bottom line continues to look pretty bad. All the addition of center Nikola Pekovic and guard Alexey Shved did was yield another loss.
The Los Angeles Clippers, opening up a monster eight-game road swing, got 26 points and 13 rebounds from Blake Griffin, 19 points from Caron Butler and 17 off the bench from Jamal Crawford in a 96-90 victory over the Wolves (17-25) on Wednesday night at Target Center.
It was the second straight victory for the Clippers (34-13). The Wolves, who are starting a six-game homestand, got a team-high 17 points from Pekovic and another 12 from Shved, but still lost for the fifth straight time and for the 10th time in 11 games. But the Clippers had to earn it in a game that at times got chippy. Clippers reserve Matt Barns was ejected in the first quarter for a scuffle with Wolves backup center Greg Stiemsma, who later got into it with Ronny Turiaf and Butler.
The entire fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair. Down five entering the final quarter, the Wolves pulled even on J.J. Barea's three-point play with just under 7 minutes to play.
The two teams then traded opportunities. The game was tied again at 82, and then at 84. The Clippers went up one on Jamal Crawford's jumper, the Wolves back up one on Nikola Pekovic's layup.
But then, with less than 3 minutes left, Caron Butler hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Clippers a 90-88 lead.
After Ricky Rubio missed at the other end, Crawford hit one of two free throws. After Andrei Kirilenko missed a 3-point shot, Blake Griffin put the game away with his three-point play with 30.1 seconds left, which gave L.A. a 94-88 lead.
Up by two after the first quarter, the Wolves reserves pushed that lead to as many as 11 in the second quarter before the Clippers ended the half on a 25-10 run -- with three Clipper players scoring five or more points -- to take a 52-48 lead into the locker room.
The Clippers used a 12-5 start to the third quarter to go up 11 before Luke Ridnour hit a 3-pointer from the corner. That an 11-2 run that brought the Wolves within two on Pekovic's layup. It was still a three-point Clippers lead before Jamal Crawford hit a jumper at the end to push that lead to 76-71 entering the fourth.
Kirilenko and Barea each scored 14 for Minnesota.
NOTES: With Chris Paul out of the lineup with a bruised kneecap, Griffin has become more of a passer, averaging 6.5 assists per game over the previous four games, nearly double his career average. "With Chris out we're making Blake be more of a facilitator," Clippers coach Vinny Del Degro said. ... Paul missed his fifth straight game and his eighth overall. But Del Negro said both Paul and Chauncey Billups -- who has missed all but three games with foot tendinitis -- could return on the Clippers' road trip. ... Shved will be the team's lone representative at All Star Weekend. He will play in the Rising Stars Challenge. Shved is averaging 10.7 points and 4.6 assists in 36 games. Interestingly, neither Rubio nor Derrick Williams were chosen. With Shved and center Pekovic back after missing five games with injuries, the Wolves had 12 healthy players available for the first time since Dec. 26, a span of 16 games.